In our work with student-athletes, we often hear about how fear, doubt, and self-judgement get in the way of optimal performance. Living in the Sweet Spot: Preparing for Performance in Sport and Life by Amy Baltzell, PhD, gives readers a variety of tools to prepare performers to think more effectively on the way to achieving big goals. Specifically, Baltzell discusses reconnecting with the joy, passion, and love for your sport or performance area in order to be your best. The book offers tools to build a championship approach, prepare for performance or competition, and how to approach competition day. Over the next six weeks, we will tackle different concepts and strategies to help you to find your sweet spot. In our first blog of this series, let’s discover
what the sweet spot is.
Accomplishing big goals is a challenge for any performer, and one that takes sacrifice, dedication, and discipline to put in the countless hours of work to perfect one’s craft. Typically, athletes start their sport because it is fun, they are good at it, and playing makes them happy. But after years of pursuing the next biggest goal, sometimes the love begins to fade and pressure to achieve takes over. Baltzell discusses how athletes often develop the habit of focusing on what is wrong and needs to be improved instead of thinking about what is going well. She calls this the 2% rule – where 98% is going well but we let that last 2% control our thoughts, decrease our confidence, and ultimately hinder our performance. According to Baltzell, “There is great risk if you get in the habit of exclusively ruminating over how you could have been better and how you must improve…You can lose faith in yourself if you only look to what is wrong. And this exclusive focus can lead you to lose your nerve in key performance moments. You can lose your ability to perform at your best when it counts because in focusing only on that last 2%, you may fail to build your core faith and belief in your own abilities.”
Sound familiar? If so, the good news is we can change the internal narrative by choosing to focus on the 98% of what is going right, more often! Baltzell suggests athletes create a list of ten things they respect about themselves as a performer and write them down. Another exercise pushes performers to think back to situations where they performed well, got positive feedback about a performance, and managed their emotional energy well through a performance. Choosing to focus on your strengths can help you to build confidence and shrink the power of that last 2%. Sometimes athletes shy away from their strengths out of fear that they won’t push as hard towards their goals.
Peak performance is not dependent on an either-or condition – either I am motivated to achieve, or I enjoy my training and competitions. Thankfully, we can have both. The intersection of achievement and happiness is where we can find the sweet spot. According to Baltzell, “To live and perform in the sweet spot, we must simultaneously value achievement and happiness. The sweet spot exists where you are both giving yourself the best shot at personal achievement and leveraging what it takes to maintain and nurture your own personal happiness while striving toward your goals.”
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